Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle
Rockets guard James Harden said he was unaware of any message attached to the “Blue Patriot” mask he wore on Thursday and was not trying to make a statement.
Harden, in his first media session of the NBA restart after he had joined the Rockets practices on Thursday, had praised Houston’s response during the George Floyd memorial and rally. He also caused a stir on social media when multiple posts showed him wearing a “Thin Blue Line” mask that is often viewed as in opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Honestly, I wasn’t trying to wear a political statement,” Harden said before Friday’s practice. “Honestly wore it because it covered my whole face, my beard. It’s pretty simple. As I clearly talked about yesterday, I’ll find a way whether it’s my jersey name or another way to show my support for Black Lives Matter.”
Harden said he was unaware of the implications of the design on the mask he wore on Thursday.
“I felt like it was just something to cover my whole face, my beard,” he said. “Masks that I’ve worn before kind of stopped right here (points at chin). It was just something to cover my whole beard. I thought it looked cool. That’s it.”
Harden said he had not decided if he would put a social justice message on the back of his uniform in the NBA restart games or what message he would choose.
“I’m in the process of working that out right now,” Harden said on Thursday. “I’m in the process of figuring out if I’m going to put a message on my back or another way to deliver my message. But somehow, my message is going to get across. I’m in the process of figuring out if the jersey name is the best idea or another way.”
Harden was not in Houston the week of the June 9 funeral for Floyd but praised the response in Floyd’s hometown.
“The way the city just, like, rallied, it was amazing. I think the world saw it, how so many people could come together so close. Obviously, it was for a tragic reason, but the marching and everything we’re standing for is very powerful.”
Harden said a championship in the unprecedented setting of the NBA’s Central Florida campus would not be diminished in any way. But on Thursday, he said the restart of the league’s season could be valuable in other ways.
“For us, it’s bigger than basketball,” he said. “But I feel like now, it’s a great opportunity to give the world something positive to look forward to. With the racial issues going on and COVID and everything, it was just a lot of craziness in these last four months.
“So hopefully, with the NBA being back, it can give some positive energy, give the world something to look forward to as far as watching us play, and hopefully we can just keep moving forward.”
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